Tag Archives: Jermaine Kearse

Review: Panthers 31, Seahawks 24

17 Jan
Jonathan Stewart

Photo Credit: NFL.com

There is no doubt the Seattle Seahawks showed a tremendous amount of heart on Sunday. Unfortunately at the end of the day the deficit was too big and time was too little. The 2015 campaign comes to a close as the Carolina Panthers defeat the Seahawks 31-24, eliminating Seattle and advancing to next week’s NFC Championship Game against the Arizona Cardinals. The NFC will be represented in the Super Bowl by a team other than the Seahawks for the first time since 2012. For this preview I will break the game down into two huge chunks, the frustrating disaster that was the first half, and the incredible comeback which fueled the second half. Here are my final thoughts of the 2015 season.

The First Half: The Seahawks spotted the Panthers 31 points going into the halftime break. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and both the Seattle offense and defense were to blame. On the very first play of the game Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart broke through into the Legion of Boom and galloped all the way down to the Seattle 16-yard line, a gain of 59 yards. This set up a Stewart touchdown run 3 plays later giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead only two and a half minutes into the game. On the Seahawks first possession of the game Carolina stole away any momentum the Seahawks were trying to muster and held a tight grasp on it for the rest of the half. On second down Russell Wilson felt immediate pressure and forced a pass to the middle of the field in the direction of Marshawn Lynch. Lynch had yet to turn around and Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly intercepted the pass and ran it in for a touchdown. 14-0 Panthers less than three and a half minutes into the game. After a Seahawks punt the Panthers drove down the field and scored again on a Stewart 1-yard touchdown run. 21-0 Panthers. On the first play of Seattle’s next possession Wilson felt rushed again and threw a low pass which was intercepted by Cortland Finnegan. A Carolina field goal made it 24-0 Panthers with 12:37 left in the second quarter. The nightmare continued on Carolina’s next possession. After a Seahawks punt the Panthers drove 54 yards in 9 plays culminating with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Greg Olsen. The Seahawks went into the halftime break down 31-0, their largest deficit in a game since 2010.

I noticed a few things in the first half that drove me crazy, some which we could control and others we really could not. For starters as the score went up I felt like our defense started to play panicked and tried to force their play. What I mean by this is instead of good fundamental tackling we would try to force takeaways by forcing the ball out which at times helped Carolina gain extra yards. Third down defense was also a problem, as Carolina converted 71 percent of their third down chances in the first half. On offense I found quarterback pressures and hurries to be particularly frustrating. One of the best facets of Russell Wilson’s game is his escapability and he did not do a good job of creating plays in the first half. He felt too comfortable in the pocket and trusted his offensive line almost to a fault. I also believe Wilson and the Seahawks offense discounted the speed of the Panthers defense. They absolutely swarmed him and ate him up in the first half, leading to two turnovers and a sack. The field also did not do the Seahawks any favors either. Players were slipping, sliding, and falling down throughout pregame warmups which led to harsh criticism which was discussed on the FOX broadcast in the early part of the game. Marshawn Lynch looked particularly uncomfortable playing on that sloppy surface, especially since the majority of his success running the ball depends on him being able to be shifty and cut sharply on the turf.

The Second Half: My hope was that if the Seahawks could somehow score 21 points in the third quarter to cut the Panthers lead to 10, we could put ourselves in position to potentially make the greatest comeback in NFL playoffs history a reality. For a time it looked like it might be doable. The Seahawks adjusted wonderfully coming out of the halftime break and came out firing. On the first offensive possession of the second half the Seahawks were set up thanks to a 50-yard kick return by Tyler Lockett. A personal foul by Carolina on the kickoff gave the Seahawks an additional 15 yards. On the fourth play of the drive Wilson connected with Jermaine Kearse for a touchdown. After forcing the Panthers to punt the Seahawks took their next drive all the way down the field resulting in a touchdown pass to Lockett. Halfway through the third quarter the Seahawks were only 7 points away from my goal. It was 31-14 Carolina. At the pace we were going I thought an epic comeback was a real possibility at this point but after our next drive resulted in a punt it started to feel like it was going to be extremely difficult. The Seahawks got the ball back with 9:34 left in the game and we drove down the field to score a touchdown in 3 minutes and 28 seconds. With just over 6 minutes left in the game, two timeouts, needing two scores, and the Panthers getting the ball again the blueprint was set in terms of what we needed to do; force a Carolina punt, score, recover an onside kick, and score again. Step one was completed after Carolina held the ball for another 3 minutes. The Seahawks got the ball back with 2:49 left and kicked a field goal cutting the deficit to 7 with the clock reading 1:12. Just like last year’s NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks season continuing depended on recovering an onside kick. Steven Hauschka’s onside attempt was a good one but the ball was caught and held on to by Thomas Davis, sealing the victory for the Carolina Panthers.

It was a gritty, heartwarming effort. The Seahawks were dead to rights and the resolve this team showed shows exactly why we are able to be competitive in any game we play. No deficit is too big for this team and we came one score shy of tying or perhaps even winning the game. Hindsight is 20/20, but if the Seahawks would have been able to kick a field goal in the first half (either Hausckha’s miss at the end of the first half or deciding to kick a field goal instead of going for it on 4th and 5 late in the first half) and if Wilson would not have thrown one of his two interceptions there is a real possibility we are talking about a Seahawks victory instead. At the end of the day, turnovers may have been the primary culprit, which is what I was wary of in my game preview.

Thoughts on Carolina: This is a defense-driven football team and they are extremely good. With today’s performance I now am questioning whether or not the Seahawks have the best defense in the league. If not, that title definitely belongs to the Panthers. They will host the Cardinals next week and if they play exactly like how they did today, it will be the Carolina Panthers representing the NFC in Super Bowl 50. I look forward to playing the Panthers next season, arguably the best opponent we will play at CenturyLink Field in 2016.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will pick 25th, 26th, or 27th in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The pick better be used on the best offensive lineman available… The 2016 schedule will be released in April but here are our opponents next season. Home games at CenturyLink Field: Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins. On the road: Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, New York Jets… 37 days until the start of the NFL Scouting Combine and 102 days until the NFL Draft.

Thank you guys once again for logging on and reading this season. It always means a lot to me that you read and care about what I write. On to 2016. Go Seahawks!

#10for10 Game #1: The Tip (Seahawks vs. 49ers, 2013 NFC Championship Game)

24 Dec

*To commemorate my 10th season as a Seahawks season ticket holder, I am telling the stories of the top 10 home games I have attended in the past 10 years*

10for10 sherman tip

Photo Credit: seahawksdraftblog.com

The Seahawks 2013 season was one nobody in the Pacific Northwest will ever forget. After going 13-3 in the regular season, we advanced all the way to Super Bowl XLVIII. There we defeated the Denver Broncos 43-8 to claim our first NFL world championship. If it wasn’t for the events of two weeks prior to the Super Bowl however, the Seahawks would still be Lombardi-less today. The 2013 NFC Championship had it all: Action, suspense, and when it was all said and done, a storybook ending. This is the story of the best Seahawks game I have ever been to.

The day was January 19th, 2014. The Seahawks were hosting the second NFC Championship Game in franchise history and we were one win away from a trip to New York City for the Super Bowl. Game time was slated for 3:30pm and I was taking my dad to the game, so we decided to skip the bar scene on this pivotal Sunday. We headed downtown around 10am and went straight to the Pyramid Alehouse for lunch. The place was already packed so we stood at a table inside the bar. I sipped on a few Pyramid Hefeweizens and enjoyed a plate of fish and chips. We watched the first half of the AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos and were joined in the late afternoon once again by my friend James and his brother Lane. James and I had airfare and hotel reservations to New York already booked just in case the Seahawks won. As we watched the game we talked about how excited we were to potentially head east for the Super Bowl and we briefly discussed things we might want to do when back there. I don’t call this overconfidence but when the opportunity presented itself we couldn’t help but talk about our potential vacation. We left Pyramid shortly before 2pm and headed straight into the stadium. Once we got our tickets scanned were all given a white “We Are 12” rally towel. My dad and I departed James and Lane and the two of us headed straight up to my seats.

10for10 james eric nfc champ

James and I on the main concourse prior to kickoff

When we hosted the NFC Championship Game 8 years prior I distinctly remember every fan being in their seats before the Seahawks had even ended pregame warmups and this game was no different. The Seahawks huddled up before heading back to the locker room one last time and 68,000 fans hollered to ear-shattering levels while waving their towels. We were ready. The Seahawks went the extra mile to pump up the crowd. Before the Seahawks were introduced, they played the Derrick Coleman Duracell commercial on the video screens. Towards the end of the commercial Coleman, who narrates the commercial says “and now I’m here with the loudest fans in the NFL cheering me on… and I can hear them all.” The video got the fans even more crazed. To this day I have scoured YouTube and various video websites to try to find video of the Coleman commercial played before the game and I have not been successful. It is a moment that will be difficult for me to forget.

After the 49ers took the field the Seahawks were introduced and the starting defense got their chance to run out of the tunnel individually. Richard Sherman was the first member of the Legion of Boom to take the field and deafening roar of the crowd lasted through the introductions of Byron Maxwell, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas. After Heart’s Ann Wilson performed the national anthem, owner Paul Allen raised the 12th Man flag just like he did before the ’05 NFC title game. The Seahawks were going to start the game with the ball.

On the first play of the game the Seahawks wanted to go for it all. The call was a play action pass. Russell Wilson faked the handoff to Marshawn Lynch and dropped back seven, looking deep down the field. He scrambled to his left and as he tried to tuck the ball away it was stripped and recovered by the 49ers Aldon Smith. After one play the Seahawks had turned the ball over deep inside San Francisco territory. I remember having a blank stare on my face and everyone around me had the exact same expression. “What the f**k was that?” was what was on my mind and multiple people in my vicinity shouted that exact same thought for everyone to hear. Fortunately Colin Kaepernick could not put the 49ers in the endzone following the turnover. We held the 49ers to a field goal and they took a 3-0 lead. Things did not get any better for the Seahawks on our next possession as San Francisco forced us into a 3 and out. After trading punts San Francisco got the ball again to start the second quarter. A 58-yard scramble by Kaepernick gave the 49ers a goal-to-go situation. After three failed attempts to get the ball into the endzone the 49ers elected to go for it on 4th down. In front of a raucous 12th Man Kaepernick handed the ball to Anthony Dixon who plowed ahead into the endzone. The touchdown gave the 49ers a 10-0 lead with 10:03 left in the first half. The Seahawks cut the lead to 10-3 on their next drive thanks in part to a 51-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin. Seattle headed into the locker room at halftime down by 7 and although it was disappointing we were not leading there was renewed optimism when, of all things, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took the stage for a halftime performance.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis played their hits singles “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” and at the end of the show Macklemore declared that “Seattle sports history will be made tonight.” This declaration left the 12th Man including myself jacked up. We as fans were ready to do everything we possibly could to help push the Seahawks to a comeback and a victory.

10for10 macklemore

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

After forcing the 49ers to punt on their first possession of the second half the Seahawks got the ball with excellent field position. On the fourth play of the drive the Seahawks were facing 3rd and 1. Darrell Bevell called up “17 power,” the same play as the Marshawn Lynch Beast Quake run. Marshawn shed two blocks and broke away towards the front right corner of the endzone. As soon as he got out of the second tackle I could see the space he had to run and immediately went crazy. At about the 10-yard line Lynch tripped but his momentum carried him into the endzone anyway for the score. Skittles rained down in all corners of the stadium and I jumped up and down in unison with my dad and the folks around me. The game was tied 10-10 and it felt like a whole new football game was about to start.

The 49ers took the next drive 83 yards and with 6:29 left in the third quarter the Seahawks faced yet another deficit, 17-10. After this the Seahawks took full control of the game. After a Steven Hauschka field goal made it a 17-13 ballgame, the Seahawks forced another San Francisco punt. Heading into the fourth quarter the Seahawks had the ball on the 49ers 35-yard line facing 4th down. The following sequence will never be forgotten as a pivotal cog in the Seahawks 2013 Super Bowl season. Hauschka lined up for a field goal but with the kick heading into the wind, he was hesitant to go through with the attempt. Pete Carroll called timeout to go over their options and ultimately decided to send the offense back on the field to go for it. With the Seahawks in the huddle I sat down in my seat briefly, leaned over, and said a quick prayer. The Seahawks broke the huddle and I jumped up to stand. Wilson was able to draw San Francisco offsides and knowing he had a free play, Wilson launched a pass into the endzone which was caught by Jermaine Kearse. The stadium went crazy. For the first time all afternoon the Seahawks had the lead 20-17. There was still 13:44 left in the game and a lot could happen but what has happened time and time again at home, once we corral a lead, the 12th Man will make it awfully difficult for the opposing team to come back.

Everyone was back in the game. With Lil Jon’s “Outta Your Mind” on full blast before the next kickoff, every fan was screaming, waiving their rally towels, and jumping up and down. On the 7th play of the series and facing third down, Colin Kaepernick was flushed out of the pocket to his left. As he tried to cock the ball back it was stripped out of his hand by Cliff Avril and picked up by Michael Bennett. Bennett returned the ball to the 49ers 6-yard line. This was the loudest it had gotten inside CenturyLink Field all day. The 49ers were unraveling and if the Seahawks could score a touchdown and go up by 10 points, the game may be out of reach. Unfortunately the drive resulted in no points, as Russell Wilson fumbled a 4th and goal attempt from the 1-yard line, turning the ball over to the 49ers. After an interception by Kam Chancellor which was translated into a field goal the Seahawks held a 23-17 lead with 3:37 remaining. If Seattle could stop the 49ers one more time, they would be the NFC champions.

The Seahawks forced San Francisco into a 4th and 2 situation with 2:01 left in the game. The 49ers converted on a pass from Kaepernick to Frank Gore for 17 yards. After the next play, a 4 yard run by Kaepernick, the 49ers elected to let the clock run. After two more completions the 49ers had the ball 1st and 10 from the Seahawks 29-yard line. 55 seconds remained. After a pass to Vernon Davis the 49ers let the clock run down once more. With every second off the clock came more and more stress. The 49ers were getting dangerously close to the endzone and with them draining the clock, a touchdown would pretty much seal San Francisco’s second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. The fans tried to stay loud to try to throw the 49ers off but you could hear the worry and panic in the noise, a feeling that has never happened in my 10 years as a season ticket holder. There have been stressful moments but not like this; not with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

Then everything changed. Then came the single greatest play in the history of the Seattle Seahawks.

1st and 10 for the 49ers. 18-yard line. 30 seconds remaining. Colin Kaepernick drops back and throws a fade into the right side of the endzone. The ball is tipped into the air by Richard Sherman and falls right into the waiting hands of Malcolm Smith. The Seahawks had made the tip drill a common routine throughout 2013 and with no other 49ers receiver in the area, from my angle as soon as the ball was tipped I knew it was going to be intercepted. It was the most emotional I had ever been at a Seahawks game. I dropped to my knees because I was emotionally drained. With everyone in the stadium going crazy, after a few moments I got back up, hugged my dad, and the reality of the moment really started to settle in. “WE’RE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!” I exclaimed as Russell Wilson took three knees to win the game. With “Can’t Hold Us” playing over the speakers the teams met in the middle of the field and as the clock hit zero I pulled out my phone. I had a text I needed to send to James. That text, which I will never forget, simply said “PACK YOUR BAGS, BROTHER.” We were going to New York for the Super Bowl.

John Nordstrom, the original owner of the Seahawks, presented Paul Allen with the George Halas trophy and after several on-field speeches the fans left the stadium one last time to the sounds of Frank Sinatra’s classic hit “New York, New York.”

10for10 nordstrom allen

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

The rest is history. The Seahawks went on to win their very first world championship two weeks later. Without Jermaine Kearse’s 4th down touchdown and Richard Sherman’s tip, there is a very good chance the Seahawks would still be a championship-less franchise. From 2006-2012 the Seahawks season came to an end short of us being able to host an NFC Championship Game, the biggest game a team can host. Those long years waiting made this day absolutely worth it. There is no doubt this is the greatest Seahawks home game I have ever attended and going forward it will be extremely difficult to top.

#10for10 Game #2: Championship Comeback (Seahawks vs. Packers, 2014 NFC Championship Game)

17 Dec

*To commemorate my 10th season as a Seahawks season ticket holder, I am telling the stories of the top 10 home games I have attended in the past 10 years*

10for10 kearse catch

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

After overtaking the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC West lead and eventual division championship late in the 2014 season the Seahawks earned the number one seed in the NFC playoffs for the second consecutive season. All it would take was a win in the divisional round and the Seahawks would host the NFC Championship Game for the second straight year. We did just that, and on January 18th, 2015 the Seahawks hosted the Green Bay Packers with the winner earning a trip to Super Bowl XLIX.

The day started a little different than any other Seahawks home game in my 10 years as a season ticket holder simply because of what time the game was scheduled to start. The AFC and NFC alternate kickoff times for championship weekend each year; one game starts at 12:00pm while the other kicks off at 3:30pm. In 2014 the NFC title game was a noon kickoff Pacific Time which meant the game would start one hour earlier than an afternoon regular season Seahawks home game. After a 5:30am wake up call, I got myself ready to go and I was out of the house by 6:30. I met my friend Jake at a Pioneer Square Starbucks shortly before 7am and we grabbed a cup of coffee before walking over to our pregame destination, the Hawks Nest Bar and Grill. The bar usually opens at 8am for Seahawks home games and they did not open earlier to accommodate the earlier start time. Because of this there was a line about 75 people long waiting to get in at 7:30. We met a couple of Jake’s brother’s friends and when the doors opened at 8 o’clock we headed straight for the L-shaped mini-bar-looking spot in the back of the building.

For the next two and a half hours we watched the various NFL pregame shows on the televisions surrounding our spot while eating and drinking merrily with all the Seahawks fans sitting and standing around us. Over this time I was paid visits by my Dad and uncle who were attending the game together, as well as my friend James and his little brother Lane who had also won tickets through the Seahawks.

10for10 packers pregame

James (left), Jake (right), and I at the Hawks Nest before the game

After a few beers Jake and I left the bar at around 10:30 and headed into the stadium. We got our rally towels at the gate and headed straight up to my seats. We were met with a stadium getting fuller by the minute and by the time the Seahawks headed into their locker room after pregame warmups CenturyLink Field was nearly completely full. The Seahawks defense was introduced to a raucous ovation and after Paul Allen raised the 12 Flag for the third time ever with a sea of white towels waving all around, Steven Hauschka kicked off to the Packers to get the game underway.

That first drive could not have been any better. After letting the Packers drive into Seahawks territory, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a third down pass into the endzone which was picked off by Richard Sherman. All the momentum shifted in the Seahawks favor. If we could take our first possession and turn it into a touchdown, it may be an easy day en route to the Super Bowl. Those dreams ended real fast. On the third play of our first drive Russell Wilson was intercepted by Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. For some reason everything that followed for the next three quarters fell out of sync. That interception led to a field goal and a 3-0 Green Bay lead. Doug Baldwin fumbled the ball back to the Packers on our next offensive play and that turnover turned into another Packers field goal. Then a three and out gave the ball back to the Packers and they in turn scored a touchdown. After the first quarter the Packers had over 4 times as many points as the Seahawks had yards. Packers 13, Seahawks 0.

The Seahawks started the second quarter with another three and out. The Packers turned their next drive into another field goal and a 16-0 lead. By this point all the fans were silent and discouraged beyond belief. We could not believe that a team so good playing at home on a stage so big could come out so flat. Our next drive did not make matters any better. Another Wilson interception to Clinton-Dix gave Green Bay the ball back but we were able to take the ball back from the Packers when Byron Maxwell intercepted Rodgers. We needed to go down the field and score a touchdown to have any confidence moving forward. We got the ball all the way down to the Packers 18-yard line. Unfortunately we could not capitalize. Wilson targeted Jermaine Kearse on the left side of the endzone but was intercepted by Sam Shields. Packers ball 1st and 10 up 16-0 with 1:55 left in the half. I was in a state of such shock and disbelief I needed to decompose and catch my breath. I abandoned an equally-shocked Jake at my seats for a short period of time and I decided to take a walk down the concourse and use the restroom at the halftime break.

I sit in section 340 at CenturyLink Field which is in the northwest corner of the stadium. I walked all the way down to the 12 Flagpole in the south end of the stadium and waited in a bathroom line that stretched about 100 feet down the concourse. I did not even care about the Alice in Chains halftime performance going on right next to me. I just stared into space, thinking about the 30 minutes of atrocious football I had just witnessed. I was not physically sick but just thinking about how poorly we played made me want to puke once I got in there. I walked back to my seats with a renewed hope that the Seahawks could come back and make this game competitive. Luckily I made it back just in time for the start of the second half.

After trading drives resulting in punts the Seahawks got the ball back and drove down to the Green Bay 19-yard line. Steven Hauschka lined up for a 38-yard field goal but the ball was picked up by holder Jon Ryan who scrambled left and lobbed up a rainbow to eligible receiver Garry Gilliam for a touchdown. The fake fooled everyone in the stadium and when the pass fell complete the stands went nuts. The gutsy play call put us back in the game. We knew we had a long way to go but we thought this score could spark a comeback. Packers 16, Seahawks 7.

After exchanging punts once more the Packers drove down the field to kick a field goal which extended their lead to 19-7 with 10:53 left in regulation. The Seahawks got the ball back with just over 5 minutes left to go needing a touchdown. On the first play of the drive Wilson was picked off for the fourth time, once again intended for Jermaine Kearse. Many fans gave up on our chances and decided to head for the exits including Marc and Mike, the two guys who sit in front of me. After forcing the Packers to punt the Seahawks got the ball back with 3:52 left in regulation. The following 7 minutes and 11 seconds earned this game the number two spot on my countdown.

The Seahawks drove 69-yards down the field culminating in a 1-yard read-option keeper by Russell Wilson. The score cut the Green Bay lead to 19-14. It was a huge score but we still needed to recover an onside kick to have any shot at taking the lead. Steven Hauschka kicked the ensuing onside kick which bounced off the helmet of the Packers Brandon Bostick. Chris Matthews jumped to snare the ball out of mid-air and the remainder of the crowd went insane. I bear hugged Jake and the guys sitting next to us. I immediately turned to my left to look down at all the fans who decided to leave stop in their tracks. Instead of walking away from the building they stood frozen, hearing the distant cheers inside the stadium; honestly one of the most satisfying sights I have ever seen at a Seahawks game. After an 8-yard pass to Luke Willson, Marshawn Lynch took a handoff 24 yards for a touchdown. All of a sudden with 1:25 left in regulation the Seahawks had their first lead of the game 20-19. We could not believe it. After screaming in celebration I bent over to catch my breath, not before letting out one last yelp. The Seahawks had to go for two to try to extend the lead to 3. Wilson rolled to his right and when the play did not develop he was chased backwards and after spinning around he chucked up a prayer of a pass across his body where it was somehow hauled in by Willson. The Seahawks miraculously had a 22-19 lead but the game was not yet over. The Packers were successfully able to drive into field goal range and kicked a game-tying 48-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. After 60 minutes: Seahawks 22, Packers 22.

The Seahawks won the toss to start overtime and I immediately wanted to yell “WE WANT THE BALL AND WE’RE GONNA SCORE!” in reference to the infamous Seahawks/Packers Wild-Card playoff game in 2003. Jake could tell by the look on my face and before I even had the chance to open my mouth he looked at me and with a dead straight face said “don’t you even dare say it.” Facing a third down Wilson found Doug Baldwin for a 35-yard gain and the Seahawks were a mere 35 yards away from a second straight NFC championship. On the next play Wilson saw the Packers were lined up with a single high safety so he audibled. He dropped back and floated a beautiful pass right into the arms of Jermaine Kearse as he crossed the goal line. When the pass left Wilson’s hand I screamed “FOR THE WIN….” And sure enough when the pass dropped into Kearse’s bread basket I jumped into the air. Jake jumped into my arms and the guys surrounding me in turn jumped onto us World Series style, as if we were the ones who had just won the game. The Seahawks players and coaches stormed the field and pig-piled Kearse in the south endzone. We were the NFC Champions and if felt so good. Daft Punk’s “One More Time” blared over the sound system as the trophy presentation stage was being set up in the middle of the field.

10for10 packers postgame

Jake and I with the championship celebration ongoing on the field in the background

Steve Largent presented Paul Allen the George Halas trophy and after speeches by Allen, Pete Carroll, and Russell Wilson it really started to sink in that we were going back to the Super Bowl. Jake and I left the stadium and walked up 1st avenue on our way to dinner where traffic was at a standstill. We high fived everyone we walked past on the sidewalk while also watching various fans run through the streets in celebration. This was the greatest comeback in the history of Seahawks football and not only were we fortunate to see it live, we were also smart enough not to leave when our chances to win seemed grave with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter. This game will always be one of my favorites and it has rightfully earned the number two spot on my #10for10 countdown.

Seahawks/Ravens Preview

12 Dec
ravens preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens

Site: M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore, Maryland)

Kickoff: 10:00am

Before the regular season started I picked the Baltimore Ravens to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 50. With this game originally scheduled for Sunday Night Football many people including me thought this game could shape the postseason picture for both teams. As it turns out only the Seahawks are vying for playoff position heading into this week. Seattle heads to Baltimore for the first time since 2003 to take on the Ravens. After a 38-7 thrashing of the Minnesota Vikings last week the Seahawks are 7-5 and are in prime position to make a serious push for the #5 seed in the NFC. The Ravens however struggled out of the gate and never recovered. Poor play and a wide array of injuries to key players have put the Ravens at 4-8 on the season. The all-time series between these teams is tied 2-2 with Seattle taking the last two meetings. These two teams last met in Seattle in 2011 where the Seahawks upset the Ravens 22-17. Here is what I will be watching out for in this game.

The main offensive key for the Seahawks this week is to remain consistent in order to carry over the success from last week. In the games we have won in recent weeks the running game led by Thomas Rawls has been superb. The Seahawks will likely establish the run again but it is only a matter of time before Rawls has an off game. Could this week could be that game? Baltimore ranks 10th in run defense allowing only 97.5 rushing yards per game. This may be a game where Russell Wilson has to do more through the air to score points instead of relying on Rawls for big pickups. With the emergence of wide receiver Doug Baldwin as Wilson’s go-to target over the past two weeks it would not surprise me to see Baldwin receive extra coverage from the Ravens secondary. This should open up looks for our other receivers. With the Ravens only allowing 39 yards receiving to tight ends per game look for Jermaine Kearse to make a significant impact in the passing game.

This could be a fairly easy day for the Seattle defense. We will not be facing regular Ravens starters Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, and Steve Smith. There are two keys to victory on defense I will be focusing on. The first will be to put pressure on whichever Ravens quarterback starts. I believe the slightest bit of pressure will throw either Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen off and he could be more prone to forcing the ball and throwing bad passes. The second key is to make sure we tackle well and do not give up yards after contact. With a backup quarterback comes the very high probability of them throwing a lot of high percentage passes. High percentage passes means the ball carrier or receiver will have space to make big plays potentially happen. Look for linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner to make a huge impact in the middle of the field.

Like I previously mentioned the Baltimore Ravens have one of the more depleted offenses in the league. On the offensive side of the ball running back Javorius “Buck” Allen will have to have a big game to take the pressure off of either Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen in the passing game. If Baltimore has any shot to win this week it will come on the shoulders of an extremely impressive defensive performance. Similarly to the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple weeks ago, the Ravens have lost dynamic leaders on the defensive side of the ball over the past few years. Future hall of famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone. All-Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs is also injured and out for the season. Defensive end Elvis Dumervil leads all Ravens defenders in sacks with 6 but my focus will be on the second level of their defense. There are two guys I will have my eye on in particular and they are both responsible for defending the middle of the field. My X-Factor Players to Watch are inside linebackers Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley. Smith is in his 12th NFL season and is on pace for the best statistical season of his career. Mosley is in his second season after being drafted in the first round by the Ravens last season. These two guys have combined for 174 tackles so far this season which is good for nearly one quarter of the Ravens total tackles. They can also get to the quarterback and drop into coverage. They each have 3 sacks this season while Mosley has dropped back to record 5 passes defensed. Watch out for how these two players attack Russell Wilson, Thomas Rawls, Luke Willson, and all the Seahawks receivers on short crossing routs to the middle of the field.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and college navy pants. No word on what color jerseys the Ravens will wear but there is this stat: The Ravens have only worn their black alternate jerseys once this season. With three home games remaining including this week and one more eligible opportunity to wear their alternates, there is a 33 percent chance the Ravens will sport black in this game… Thom Brennaman and Charles Davis have the call for FOX with Tony Siragusa commentating from the sidelines. Many complain about other announcers such as Joe Buck and Chris Myers but I think Seahawks fans will be really annoyed with the broadcast this week. Why? Siragusa is a former Raven who could have a biased loyalty towards the home team. If you watch this game and get frustrated because the commentators are not giving the Seahawks proper credit this is probably why… Walt Coleman is the referee for this week’s game… It looks like it will be another abnormally warm week weather wise. The game-time temperature is slated to be in the low to mid 60’s and cloudy. It’s funny because that is pretty much the same weather the Seahawks had in Washington D.C. for a game in early OCTOBER last season… Quite frankly I am glad this game got flexed out of Sunday Night Football and the reason I am glad is because of the players. A primetime game on the east coast starts at 8:30pm which means the game won’t end until close to midnight. After meeting with the media, driving to the airport, and a cross-country flight, the Seahawks likely would not land back in Seattle until about 5:00am pacific time. This would make for an epically cruel and tiring Monday. Having the game start at 10:00am pushes that itinerary back. Now the Seahawks will likely land back in Seattle around the same time Sunday Night Football ends, which is about an 8 hour difference… Fantasy playoffs start this week and I made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Shoutout to my starting lineup: Aaron Rodgers, Amari Cooper, Marvin Jones, Jonathan Stewart, T.J. Yeldon, Thomas Rawls, Gary Barnidge, Graham Gano, and the Carolina Panthers defense.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With a win the Seahawks take control of the #5 seed in the NFC. If the Seahawks lose they will still hold the #6 seed if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also lose. The Seahawks fall out of the playoff picture if they lose and the Buccaneers win. Here are other games this week with playoff significance. Teams to note are bolded.

New Orleans (4-8) at Tampa Bay (6-6)

Atlanta (6-6) at Carolina (12-0)

Prediction: This game will not be as close as the score indicates. Both Husky receivers Jermaine Kearse and Kevin Smith will catch touchdown passes from Russell Wilson, Smith’s being the first of his career. Thomas Rawls will also gallop for a 52-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The Ravens will score two garbage time touchdowns but the Seahawks will have the game wrapped up. The Seahawks will head home 8-5 with two straight home games on deck in the middle of the holiday season.

Seahawks 30, Ravens 17

Review: Seahawks 38, Vikings 7

6 Dec
vikings review 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

It is ironic that the Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings faced off in a college stadium on Sunday because one team on the field certainly played like a college team while the other looked like a serious Super Bowl contender. The Seahawks came into Minneapolis and thanks to strong play on both sides of the ball launched the Seahawks to a runaway 38-7 victory over the Vikings. The Seahawks improve to 7-5 on the season and currently hold one of two NFC wild-card spots. The Vikings fall to 8-4 and hold the other NFC wild-card spot. Here are my brief thoughts on today’s game.

Wilson on Point: After throwing 5 touchdowns a week ago, Russell Wilson followed that performance with his most complete game of the season on Sunday. Wilson completed 21 of his 27 passes for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns while also running 9 times for 51 yards and a touchdown. He could have had over 100 rushing yards and a second touchdown but his 53-yard scamper and score was negated by an offensive holding penalty. Wilson’s near-perfect 146.0 passer rating is also his second best mark of the season. Once again this week there was a correlation between Wilson’s production and the protection he received from his offensive line. The line only allowed one sack and Wilson had more than enough time on several of his throws to complete his passes. With the exception of one pass that was a little high intended for Jermaine Kearse, this was also Wilson’s most accurate game through the air. Something just seems to click with Wilson when the calendar turns to December.

Rawls Shines Once Again: Another week, another 100-plus yard rushing day for running back Thomas Rawls. His day got off to a shaky start after fumbling on his second carry of the game. Luckily that turnover, the only Seattle turnover of the game, did not lead to any Minnesota points. Rawls rode his 5.3 yards per carry average to 101 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. His quickness really seemed to be a problem for the depleted Vikings defense. Here is a number that is sure to surprise Seahawks fans. With 4 games remaining in the regular season Rawls is only 214 yards away from 1,000 rushing yards on the season. During the broadcast they talked about the two-headed monster the Seahawks will have in the backfield once Marshawn Lynch returns from injury but to be honest I think it might be in our best interest to shut Lynch down and ride Rawls for the remainder of the season. That may sound like an absurd idea but the production Rawls has had along with what he is projected to do going forward may not be something head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell want to mess with.

“Shut Peterson Down, Win the Game”: I wrote about this in great detail in my game preview and this is what I told everyone who asked me my thoughts about this game. The Vikings were only going to be as effective on offense as Adrian Peterson was and the Seahawks shut him down and kept the Vikings offense off the scoreboard. Peterson was held to only 18 yards on 8 carries which are both season lows. The dynamic play of the Seahawks run defense put the game squarely on the shoulders of Teddy Bridgewater and he did not impress whatsoever. With Bridgewater having only thrown 8 touchdowns this season he is the textbook definition of a “game manager” and you could tell that he was struggling to make plays on his own. We took his feet away from him and we flustered him easily in the pocket, sacking him 4 times. By my count Bridgewater was only able to complete two of his throws for 10 or more yards. This was by far the best game our defense has played all season long and to do it on the road against a playoff caliber team should raise eyebrows.

Penalty Problem: In the first quarter alone the Seahawks were flagged twice for false starts and once for 12 men in the huddle. This many procedure penalties in one quarter alone is alarming and we had problems with penalties all game long. Luckily the majority of our penalties were small yardage penalties. We had 9 penalties on Sunday, but they were masked by Minnesota’s penalties because the Vikings penalties would come at what seemed to be the worst times including three straight offensive penalties leading to a notable and laughable 1st and 38 opportunity. Mental mistakes have improved greatly over recent weeks but we took a step back on Sunday.

Thoughts on Minnesota: Long term the Minnesota Vikings have the talent to contend down the road. Short term may be a different story. The Vikings have a playoff caliber defense but they will only go as far as Adrian Peterson takes them. An offensive outing in a potential wild-card round game like the one they played on Sunday and it will be a quick and ugly one-and-done for the Vikings. With three of their four remaining games against NFC division leaders, it will be difficult for Minnesota to re-claim first place in the NFC North and if they struggle they may have to fight to even earn the #6 seed.

Random Thoughts: Although the temperature was said to have been in the high 30’s and low 40’s it looked like people in the stands were miserably cold. Maybe it’s because it was cloudy and looked like it could start snowing… My opinion is the Seahawks will be the #5 seed in the playoffs. With our next 3 games coming against losing teams now is the time to pull away from the rest of the wild-card pack to solidify our spot in the NFL playoffs.

What’s Next: The Seahawks will hit the road for their final 10am game of the regular season next week against the Baltimore Ravens. Look for my game preview on Saturday morning.

Review: Seahawks 39, Steelers 30

29 Nov
steelers review 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Last week the Seahawks were fueled by rookie power. This week it was the veterans who stepped up huge. Doug Baldwin caught a career high 3 touchdowns and Jermaine Kearse added a pair of touchdown catches to help propel the Seahawks to a much-needed 39-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The win gives the Seahawks a 6-5 record, their first winning record of the season. It was great to see the Seahawks finally close out a close game in the fourth quarter after it looked like Pittsburgh would make a late charge. Here is what I took out of Sunday’s victory.

Happy Birthday Russell: On his 27th birthday Russell Wilson went out and had the best game he could have possibly asked for. Wilson completed 21 of his 30 passes for 345 yards and 5 touchdowns. The best part? He did not turn the ball over once. Seattle’s offensive line did a tremendous job protecting Wilson. It also felt like the offensive game plan was designed to help Russell out in the pocket, meaning he may not have had as many progressions on each play which is a big factor in how long Wilson holds onto the ball. Wilson was also able to do something that has not been done all season. The Seahawks trailed two separate times in the fourth quarter and we were able to score 19 points in the final frame to re-take the lead twice and hold on to it. Our offense as a whole had played their best game of the season and could provide some serious momentum moving forward.

The Good News and the Bad News: The good news is that the Seahawks finished the game +4 in the turnover department. Those four turnovers, all of which interceptions, led to three Seahawks touchdowns. As much as I want to praise the Legion of Boom for forcing these turnovers, the bad news is that the Seahawks defense gave up 480 yards through the air and 538 total yards. According to this statistical category it was the worst outing for our defense all season. A lack of a pass rush directly contributed to our defensive struggles. In my game preview I emphasized the importance of putting pressure on Ben Roethlisberger or else he would have time to make deep throws, something which he thrives on. Roethlisberger threw deep several times on Sunday including a high-arching 69-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton. I think DeShawn Shead played a decent game in place of the inactive Cary Williams and it would not surprise me to see him start in Williams’s place once again next week.

Graham’s Injury and Moving Forward: The Seahawks were dealt a huge blow in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Russell Wilson threw a 24-yard pass to the back corner of the endzone intended for Jimmy Graham. Graham fell to the ground and immediately grabbed his right knee. After the game it was reported Graham tore his right patellar tendon, an injury that will require surgery and end his 2015 season. Many people have gotten on Graham’s case for not being the offensive machine he was in New Orleans but keep in mind that entering Sunday’s game Graham led all Seahawks receivers in receiving yards. Luke Willson will start in Graham’s place for the rest of the season and Cooper Helfet will likely see expanded playing time. As devastating this injury is I believe it is positive to stay optimistic. The Seahawks scored touchdowns on all three drives following Graham’s injury. Perhaps with Graham out some of our offensive chemistry from last season will be rediscovered.

Thoughts on Pittsburgh: The Pittsburgh Steelers offense can be one of the best in the league but if they want to compete for a wild-card spot their defense must play better than they did on Sunday. Unfortunately a lot of their talent is young which may not translate to a deep playoff run. This team is good enough to make the playoffs now but I would wait a couple more years before I would consider them legitimate super bowl contenders.

Random Thoughts: I was surprised that the fog did not completely burn off this afternoon. Sitting in the 300 level, I love when it is foggy because since you cannot see any surrounding buildings it feels like the stadium is in its very own cloud… There were way too many terrible towels but only a couple around me fortunately. No incidents between Steelers and Seahawks fans in my close vicinity also so that was good… Let me talk for a minute about that Steelers fake field goal/pooch punt formation/pass which was executed horribly and intercepted by Jeremy Lane. What in the world was that?! Why are you going for a fake that early in the game? A field goal would have given the Steelers a 6-0 lead but instead it led to Seattle’s first touchdown and a 7-3 Seahawks lead. Good on Lane for not biting and staying with eligible receiver Alejandro Villanueva on the outside. Worst play call I have seen from any team all season… NBA hall of famer and former SuperSonic Spencer Haywood raised the 12 flag on Sunday. I love when they honor former Sonics because it feels like they are keeping the spirit of the Sonics franchise alive… Two huge road games coming up. Two must-wins. Minnesota’s first up.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With the Seahawks win and losses by Atlanta and Tampa Bay, the Seahawks currently hold the #6 seed in the NFC Playoffs. The Seahawks are 3 games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West.

What’s Next: Look for my preview of next week’s crucial game against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday morning.

49ers/Seahawks Preview

21 Nov
49ers preview 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

It is amazing to think how far this rivalry has fallen in a mere 24 months. Two years ago these two teams were arguably the two best teams in football, battling for not only the NFC West division title but for supremacy in the National Football Conference. We now sit here in November of 2015 and our matchup this week against the San Francisco 49ers is a game that will be largely overlooked by the entire country, possibly for good reason. The Seahawks sit at 4-5, needing a win to avoid being virtually eliminated from playoff contention altogether. The 49ers are 3-6, and have not improved since these two teams met four weeks ago in Santa Clara. In fact San Francisco’s season has gone so far south that head coach Jim Tomsula has benched franchise quarterback Colin Kaepernick in favor of backup Blaine Gabbert. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers 19-15. Here is what to watch for on Sunday.

Patrick Lewis will start his second consecutive game at center on Sunday. I believe that our running game and Russell Wilson’s ability to find open receivers (as evidenced from the first time we played San Francisco) will be fine as long as we can control the tempo; something we were not able to do last week. My primary focus on offense this week will be how well the offensive line blocks. After making small progress in prior week’s our offensive line regressed significantly against Arizona last week. Along with the inability to protect Russell Wilson we were also called for numerous holding penalties which did not allow us to do what we wanted to do in the offensive game plan. What I would like to see this week is for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to put together a game plan that can take the pressure off the offensive line. The Seahawks have played 10 games and it should be obvious that we cannot have Wilson drop back five or more steps, have the time to go through his progressions, and make confident throws down the field. I would like to see more read option as well as quick passes and screens against the mediocre 49ers defense. Putting each play in Marshawn Lynch’s hands or in the hands of the receivers close to the line of scrimmage will help our offense thrive in this matchup.

The Seahawks lost outside linebacker Bruce Irvin to a sprained MCL late in last Sunday’s loss and he will not play in this game. My focus on defense will be how we replace Irvin both in coverage and in pass rushing situations. Mike Morgan will likely start in his place and play the majority of the snaps. Look for Morgan’s main contribution to be in pass coverage. On third down head coach Pete Carroll said this week that Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh will see expanded snaps in place of Irvin. With both of these players defensive ends, it would not surprise me to see the Seahawks play more of a “52” defense with five defensive linemen. If the Seahawks can sack Blaine Gabbert at least three times I think our defense will but us in good shape to win the game.

The San Francisco 49ers look like a completely different team on offense from the unit we saw back on October 22nd. As I previously mentioned Colin Kaepernick has been benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert. Two weeks ago Gabbert was able to do just enough to squeak out an impressive upset victory over the Atlanta Falcons. In addition to Gabbert at quarterback, starting running back Carlos Hyde has been sidelined with a foot injury. Two weeks ago the 49ers used a running back by committee system. Shaun Draughn saw the majority of carries against Atlanta while Kendall Gaskins got the goal line carries. These two backs will likely split time again if Hyde does not play. One thing to always keep an eye on is which skill position players are favorited by which quarterbacks. My X-Factor Player to Watch is a guy who is favorited by Blaine Gabbert, tight end Garrett Celek. According to the official 49ers depth chart following the trade of Vernon Davis to Denver the starting tight end is now Vance McDonald. Celek however was the offensive star of Gabbert’s first and only start of the season. He caught both of his only targets for 12 yards but both were also touchdown catches. Given the Seattle defense’s ineffectiveness in covering tight ends down the seam it would make sense for Celek to see a fair share of targets if the 49ers can drive the ball deep into Seahawks territory. Celek will be Gabbert’s favorite target in red zone situations.

Commentary on Russell Wilson: There has been talk over the past week about the recent performance and perception of Russell Wilson. Some have blasted his bye week vacation to Mexico with his girlfriend Ciara. The idea of whether or not Wilson is a “tool” was also debated on local sports radio. Seriously. Here are my thoughts on all this noise. Wilson came to Seattle as a 3rd round pick and had to earn his spot as our starting quarterback with Matt Flynn presumably already our starter. His performance during training camp and the 2012 preseason earned him the job. Three years later he is the winningest quarterback through his first three seasons in NFL history and has led the Seahawks to three playoff appearances, two conference championships and one world championship. So what’s the problem? I believe, fair or unfair, that his work ethic was so intense and admirable that it became the expectation. What I believe we are seeing now is Wilson taking his foot only the slightest bit off of the gas in regards to his daily routines and because he is not seemingly spending every waking moment in the film room like he may have been doing in seasons past if feels like he is being punished by Seahawks fans who are ready to blame Wilson for our 4-5 record. I just do not believe that this is fair. Would I had loved to see Wilson use the bye week to stay in Seattle, get healthy, and use the extra time to prepare even more intensely for the Arizona game? Absolutely. But the man is human after all and I believe he has been overly criticized for how he spent his week off.

Random Thoughts: All blue everything for the Seahawks on Sunday. The 49ers will sport white jerseys and gold pants… Chris Myers and Ronde Barber have the call for FOX this week. This is the first Seahawks game Myers will do play-by-play for since week 17 of the 2013 season. I believe when the schedule came out this game was going to be “America’s Game of the Week” with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman but because San Francisco and Seattle is not a nationally appealing matchup anymore, combined with the 7-2 Minnesota Vikings playing host to the 6-3 Green Bay Packers at the same time we play, we are stuck with Myers and Barber. To those watching on television I am sorry. It is going to be a brutal game to watch… This week’s referee is none other than Ed Hochuli… The annual wiener dog races is the halftime show! It is probably the only halftime show I enjoy watching… There’s also a giveaway this week! “We Are 12” gloves. Those will certainly come in handy as the game-time temperature is predicted to be in the low 40’s… Breakfast in Bellevue and pregaming at the Hawks Nest for the first time since week 3. Out of the house by 7:15am.

Prediction: This week will be a domination that could springboard the Seahawks into a run towards a wild-card spot. Marshawn Lynch will run for two touchdowns and Russell Wilson will throw for a pair of touchdowns; one to Jermaine Kearse and one to Tyler Lockett. San Francisco will struggle so bad that Blaine Gabbert will be benched in the third quarter in favor of Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick will lead a garbage time scoring drive culminating in a touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. The Seahawks will go to 5-5 and head into the Thanksgiving weekend happy.

Seahawks 31, 49ers 10

Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

14 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

What a way to kick off the second half of the season. There is little doubt that this game is the biggest game of our season thus far, given the opponent and the potential implications of winning or losing. In front of a nationally televised audience the Seahawks host the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. After two straight wins heading into the bye the Seahawks sit at 4-4. The Arizona Cardinals have jumped out of the gate to a 6-2 start and hold a two game lead on Seattle for the division lead. The all-time series with the Cardinals is tied 16-16. The Seahawks have won their last two games against Arizona including a 35-6 walloping of the Cardinals in week 16 last season to take control of the NFC West lead. The Cardinals are a tough opponent and have recent history of beating the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field so this game is certainly no gimme. Here is what I will be watching for on Sunday night.

The common narrative heading into this game has been the Seahawks lack of efficiency in the red zone so far this season. In our first 8 games the Seahawks have taken 18 drives into the red zone. Of those drives, half of them have resulted in field goals and only 5 have resulted in touchdowns. The last Seahawks red zone touchdown came on Marshawn Lynch’s one yard run in the first quarter against San Francisco two weeks ago. Our red zone touchdown percentage of 27.8 is the worst in the league. Seattle also only averages just over two visits to the red zone per game; also dead last in the league. The Seahawks need to capitalize on our trips deep into Arizona territory. Settling for field goals will make it tougher on us especially later on in the game. With the improving play of our offensive line, expect quarterback Russell Wilson to have more confidence throwing towards key red zone targets Jimmy Graham and Jermaine Kearse. If Marshawn Lynch can also get going to extend drives the Seahawks will be in fantastic shape.

The Arizona Cardinals have a very good passing game, oftentimes using three or more receivers. On defense this week for the Seahawks I am looking at what our personnel will look like when we use nickel or dime packages, and just how often will we use at least 5 guys in the secondary. Of course the Seahawks are well known for playing a “cover 3” defense but given the talent Arizona has at the receiver position it may be necessary for DeShawn Shead or Marcus Burley to play more. Playing an extra member of the Legion of Boom may work to our advantage, especially if we can confuse Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer in coverage. Forcing interceptions may be difficult this week though. Palmer has thrown over three times as many touchdowns as he has interceptions. Sacks may also come at a premium, as the Cardinals offensive line has done a great job protecting their quarterback. Arizona has surrendered only 11 sacks so far, an average of 1.4 sacks per game.

On offense the Arizona Cardinals have two of the most explosive units in football. The signing of running back Chris Johnson has propelled the Cardinals to the 9th best rushing unit in the league. My focus this week will be on Arizona’s fourth ranked passing offense led by quarterback Carson Palmer. Arizona averages 292 passing yards per game, and 66.3 percent of Palmer’s completions have been caught by the three headed monster of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and Michael Floyd. My X-Factor Player to Watch spotlight will be on Fitzgerald this week as his role is the most interesting in my eye. Fitzgerald leads all Arizona receivers in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. The majority of Fitzgerald’s time however has been spent in the slot rather than on the outside. This is where a fifth Seahawks defender will come into play; to help cover Fitzgerald in the middle of the field. Fitzgerald catching passes means the Cardinals will be moving the ball in small chunks while tiring out the Seahawks defense at the same time.

Although Arizona leads the NFC West and they have good talent on the defensive side of the ball, after watching film I still consider this unit to be a “poor mans” Seahawks defense. The Cardinals are using the Seahawks blueprint to create their defense and it is working. The pass rush continues to be exceptional with Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, and Dwight Freeney. Linebacker Kevin Minter has great range as he is the second best tackler on the team and also leads all Arizona defenders in tackles for loss. What scares me the most though is the play of the Cardinals secondary. Patrick Peterson continues to be one of the best cornerbacks in football. Tyrann Mathieu is probably their most versatile defender doing everything from rushing the passer to playing in deep coverage. If there is one defender to watch it is strong safety Deone Bucannon. In his second year out of Washington State, Bucannon has gone from reserve safety to the leading tackler on the team with 56 through their first 8 games. Bucannon is a hard hitter in coverage and also displays impressing ball-hawking skills. If the Seahawks throw deep do not be surprised to hear Bucannon’s name on the broadcast.

Random Thoughts: With the aura of primetime football comes a primetime broadcast crew. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call on NBC. Michele Tafoya will report on both teams from the sideline. The Seahawks will wear all-navy and the Cardinals will likely wear white jerseys and white pants. I highly doubt we will see Arizona break out the red pants… Clete Blakeman is this week’s referee… Ah finally; primetime football after daylight savings time. It will be dark. It will be loud. It will be the most bonkers atmosphere of the 2015 season. I cannot wait… The game theme is military appreciation. 91-year old Corporal Clayton Pitre will raise the 12 flag prior to kickoff… No bars this week since I’m taking my dad. Lunch downtown then probably either Pyramid or Safeco Field for pregame beers most likely so that should be a nice little change of pace… This game is the biggest game because of the possible ramifications. A win and the Seahawks are one game behind Arizona and our hopes of a division title remain intact. A loss means we are three games behind Arizona, they will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, and we can virtually kiss our chances at a division title goodbye. We will be solely focused on a Wild-Card berth if we lose this game and I am not ready to turn my attention to the 5 or 6 seed. A loss is not acceptable.

Prediction: In the Pete Carroll era the Seahawks are 9-0 in primetime with a combined score of 245-94. I do not expect this game to be a blowout but I also do not expect a loss at home in primetime. Russell Wilson will be sacked 4 times but will make two deep throws to set up Marshawn Lynch touchdown runs. Carson Palmer will throw for one touchdown, Chandler Catanzaro will kick a field goal and the Arizona defense will also add a safety. In the end however, Steven Hauschka will kick two fourth quarter field goals and the Seahawks will win their third straight game, improving their record to 5-4.

Seahawks 24, Cardinals 12

Review: Seahawks 20, 49ers 3

25 Oct
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

What a way to set the foundation for an incredible vacation to the Bay Area. Without question the Seahawks played their most complete game of the season on Thursday night, dominating the San Francisco 49ers all night long. The result was a 20-3 victory where in all honesty the 49ers never were competitive. The Seahawks improve to 3-4 on the season and the 49ers now hold a record of 2-5. Here are my thoughts on Thursday’s game.

Running Game Gets Going and Russell’s Good Throws: The very first Seahawks offensive drive of the game set the tone for the rest of the evening and they did not look back. Running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 32 yards on the opening drive culminating in a 1-yard touchdown run. The offensive line protection allowed quarterback Russell Wilson to convert two first downs through the air on passes to Tyler Lockett and Fred Jackson. Offensively, Russell put the game away on his beautiful 43-yard touchdown pass to Lockett in the second quarter. Late in the game we were able to chew clock thanks in large part to the wonderfully basic play calling of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. After roasting Bevell almost every week thus far this season, I must say he called a great game on Thursday. We now have a good blueprint to run with for future games. Another day like this in Dallas next week and we will be very hard to beat.

Have A Day, Michael Bennett: After recording just 13 sacks in our first 6 games, the Seahawks came out and had a sack party in Santa Clara. Leading the way was defensive end Michael Bennett who singlehandedly recorded 3.5 sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. To make matters even better, Bennett made no mental mistakes that he has become known for so far this season. The production of our defensive pass rushers leaves me very optimistic about our upcoming games. Even though we did not force any 49ers turnovers it feels like our entire defense has turned a corner. I understand that the San Francisco offense is not very good but hopefully our ability to successfully close out a game in the fourth quarter will give us momentum heading into next week.

The Bad: There were two things I did not like on Thursday night. The first thing was the Russell Wilson’s decision making on the two interceptions he threw. The first one was a ball thrown at the very end of the first half. He saw Doug Baldwin in the back of the endzone but did not see Tramaine Brock. Brock stepped in front of the pass and made the interception in the endzone. A score of any kind would have given the Seahawks at least a 20 point lead heading into halftime. Wilson’s second interception was thrown into double coverage intended for Jermaine Kearse. From my view in the corner at Levi’s Stadium I saw Wilson had Doug Baldwin wide open and could have hit him in stride if he threw the ball a second or two sooner. Luckily that second turnover only resulted in the only 3 points the 49ers scored all night. The second thing I did not like was the continuing shaky play of the Seahawks offensive line. Their performance was buried among the big plays and the way the game played out overall. It was until after the game I realized the offensive line played a subpar game when I saw that the unit allowed another 5 sacks of Russell Wilson. Next week in Dallas may be a greater challenge. A similar offensive approach however may work well against the Cowboys.

Thoughts on San Francisco: This 49ers team is a disaster and the saddest part may be that their fans definitely know it. They have a banner hanging the length of the press box that says “home of the faithful” but the fans were anything but faithful on Thursday night. This team has talent but they are in need of a partial rebuild to get back to where they were a mere two years ago. With the future of Colin Kaepernick uncertain and the defense lacking experience it may take another couple of seasons for the 49ers to contend for even a division title. Let’s see if ownership is willing to give head coach Jim Tomsula that long of a leash.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks wore wolf grey and improved their all-time record wearing wolf grey to 6-0… Levi’s Stadium is an absolutely gorgeous facility. The fans of the two teams who make it to Super Bowl 50 will certainly enjoy the gameday experience in that building. The tailgating in Blue Lot #1 was a lot of fun, even though the lot was gravel and we got there so early that the tailgates around us were not fully raging until shortly before we made the walk over to the stadium. Next time I head to Levi’s I’ll probably try to get a parking pass in the green lot since it is closer… The 12’s really traveled well this week and we were certainly heard. 49ers fans didn’t even seem to care that their stadium had been taken over by the enemy. It was kind of bizarre and nothing like what I had experienced at Candlestick Park in years prior… Beer and food prices were a little steep but the variety was hard to beat. I bought a couple of hot dogs but two of my friends enjoyed curry, which they generously let me taste test. It was delicious… The view was great but the sun beat down on us for about the first quarter which was both hot and annoying. I consider it lucky that this game was in primetime. We would have been baking and extremely uncomfortable if it was a Sunday afternoon game… After the game we tried to go down to the NFL Network postgame show but the seating hosts would not let the large contingent of Seahawks fans down to the lower level seating, most likely because they did not want to show just how many Seahawks fans took over Levi’s Stadium. Take my word, if they had let all of us down there it would have challenged the number of fans who were waiting around after the Seahawks beat Arizona on Thursday Night Football in 2013… As we waited for traffic to die down after the game we decided to continue our tailgate. A group of 7 of us enjoyed a few celebratory beers before heading back to downtown San Francisco where we were staying… I will definitely want to go back to Levi’s Stadium with friends in future years. I had a great time and I know the other two guys I stayed with did also… Fight on.

What’s Next: Look for my preview of next week’s game against the Dallas Cowboys on Friday evening, a day earlier than normal.

#FireBevell: Panthers 27, Seahawks 23

18 Oct
Photo Credit: Panthers.com

Photo Credit: Panthers.com

For the second straight week the Seahawks blew a lead late in the game and they were unable to complete a last-minute comeback attempt. The Carolina Panthers came into Seattle and exited with their first win ever at CenturyLink Field, defeating the Seahawks 27-23. The Panthers improve to 5-0 while the Seahawks fall to 2-4. Again, many different groups were to blame for this loss but for yet ANOTHER week I point the finger at the play calling of offensive quarter Darrell Bevell. Do not get me wrong, a defense as talented as the Seahawks should be able to hold a lead, but the plays that were called on the second-to-last offensive drive of the game leaves me fuming mad. This review is entirely dedicated to that drive as I give my thoughts on each of those 5 plays.

1st & 10, Seattle 20 Yard Line, 3:55 Remaining: Hindsight is 20/20 on this play, and it was a similar feeling to the 3rd down completion to Jermaine Kearse at the end of the Detroit game two weeks ago. The Seahawks broke the huddle in a shotgun formation with 5 wide receivers spread out. My first thought was why in the world are we throwing the ball on first down?! Even though Carolina had all three of their timeouts and the two-minute warning to work with, we had been marginally effective running the ball with Marshawn Lynch in the second half. Anything short of a first down on this play and Seattle would have either gotten Carolina to burn timeout #1 or chewed the clock down to about 3:10 left. Luckily Russell Wilson connected with Jimmy Graham for a 20-yard gain to keep the clock going and give us a fresh set of downs. Regardless, my personal philosophy would be to establish the run on first down and we refused to do so.

1st & 10, Seattle 40 Yard Line, 3:05 Remaining: Oh goodie! Another first down opportunity and another chance to establish the run! Instead, Russell Wilson dropped back to pass and kept the ball for a two yard gain. The clock would have kept on running. Unfortunately Marshawn Lynch was called for holding on the play, moving the ball back 10 yards.

1st & 20, Seattle 30 Yard Line, 2:52 Remaining: Regardless of the penalty, we still had a first down to work with. It was yet another opportunity to run the ball and potentially chew clock. For the third time Bevell dialed up a pass, this one winding up being incomplete intended for Marshawn Lynch. This would have been a perfect place to run read option to gain those penalty yards back. It was a high-percentage throw but with an offensive line that struggled once again on Sunday, Russell Wilson dropping back to pass is not the smartest move to make in this first down situation. To make matters worse this incompletion stopped the clock and Carolina was not forced to take a timeout. If the Panthers defense forced the Seahawks into a three and out, they now would have at least one timeout in their back pocket when they get the ball back. YOU MUST BE ABLE TO KEEP THE CLOCK RUNNING IN THESE SITUATIONS LATE IN THE GAME. Incomplete passes DO NOT get the job done!!!!!

2nd & 20, Seattle 30 Yard Line, 2:45 Remaining: Another pass. This time however the line collapsed and Russell Wilson checked down to Marshawn Lynch who was stopped for no gain. Carolina decided to use their first timeout to stop the clock. It may be understandable to throw here but Seattle needed 20 yards to move the chains, a little dump off pass simply does not cut it. Now the Seahawks need to gain 20 yards on one play in order to extend the drive. You have to do something to give Wilson better protection in order to make a throw down the field.

3rd & 20, Seattle 30 Yard Line, 2:36 Remaining: Yet ANOTHER pass, but it was obviously warranted since we were backed up so far. Once again the pass protection was nonexistent and Wilson was sacked for a three yard loss. Carolina then called their second timeout. The Seahawks were forced to punt the ball back to Carolina with two and half minutes to play with the two minute warning and one timeout at their disposal; plenty of time to go down the field to either tie the game or take the lead.

For Carolina, mission accomplished.

I honestly do not know what else I can say on this matter. For the second straight week Darrell Bevell’s persistent naivety to not run the ball failed the only obligation the Seahawks had, to protect the lead. The past couple of seasons the Seahawks defense had done enough to win games. Now games are coming down to the wire and week after week more fans are starting to see how inept Darrell Bevell is at calling plays. He tries too hard to be an offensive guru. When executed correctly these pass plays give the 12’s the false perception that Bevell is an offensive genius. He is NOT an offensive genius. Bevell’s play calling combined with the offense’s inability to execute his terrible plays is now starting to make this feel like an unexpected lame-duck season destined for our first playoff-less season since 2011. As farfetched as it may sound right now, I would rather see Steve Sarkisian be reunited with Pete Carroll as our offensive coordinator in 2016. FIRE. BEVELL.

Random Thoughts: FIRE. BEVELL.

What’s Next: The Seahawks turn right back around for Thursday Night Football next week. Look for my preview of our next game against the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday.